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What Happened To My Nice Green Lawn?

Winter Kill

“I expected it to green up this spring, but it’s taking longer than usual, and it looks like some patches may have died over the winter.”

This customer is describing a problem that we’re seeing across north and central Georgia this spring as discussed by Clint Waltz, Professor at The University of Georgia, and may be attributed to “winter kill” (or “winterkill”). Winter kill is a term used to define turf loss during the winter. It can be caused by a combination of factors, including crown hydration, desiccation, low temperatures, ice sheets, and snow mold. For the most part, well cared for turf is resilient and strong, but winter kill can be unforgiving to even the best lawns.

Annual bluegrass lawns are the most susceptible to crown hydration injury. During the warm days of late winter, the plants start to take up water (hydrate). Potential for injury exists when a day or two of warm daytime temperatures in late winter are followed by a rapid freeze. Ice crystals can form in the crown of the plant, rupture the plant cells, and cause the plant to die.

Dessication is the death of leaves or plants by drying during winter when the plant is dormant. The injury is usually greatest on exposed or elevated sites and where surface runoff is great.

Winter kill can be worse during very cold winters, but winter kill is not just due to cold weather. Winter kill is worse on stressed lawns. Stresses to the lawn through the year weaken the lawn, and the turf dies in the winter. The real problem is the stress. The cold, dry winter weather is just the straw that beaks the camel’s back.

The best way to avoid winter kill grass is to properly take care of your lawn throughout the year. Keep your grass well fertilized and neatly trimmed. Constantly remove weeds, and keep neighborhood debris off your lawn. Don’t smother your grass with old heavy appliances that you have discarded.

Centipede Grass and St. Augustine Grass have suffered the greatest this year. In many cases, reestablishment (sodding or seeding) will be the best option. If you desire to reestablish your lawn either from sod or by seed, now is the time; if seeding is chosen, the earlier the better. The existing lawn should be mowed low (scalped), and the grass clippings should be collected to allow the seeds to make soil-to-seed contact. By keeping some of the existing grass, it may help speed recovery and provide a medium for seed to become established. One warning: if a pre-emergence herbicide was applied this winter or spring, don’t seed; the herbicide will kill the germinating centipede grass seed. Follow watering and establishment practices for a newly planted lawn.

Please call us if you have any questions regarding your lawn or landscape. For landscape alert information affecting Georgia, you can also check out the UGA Center for Urban Agriculture’s website.

As always, we appreciate you and your business!!

 

Sincerely, Jamie and Kelly Hobbs

ACA Landscaping, LLC

www.ACALandscaping.com

Office: 770-781-6677

Field: 678-283-3447

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